Dad

dad baby carriage

“I have to get my pacemaker replaced,” my father told me the other night on the phone, “the battery only lasts so long.” I, being strongly averse to needles and knives breaking my skin, immediately murmured an empathetic “oh no, I’m so sorry,” to which he responded with, “Oh it’s not a big deal, just a local anesthetic, and I can watch the whole thing on a TV screen. It’s more fun than going to the dentist or watching a football game.”

I laughed, and decided that his perspective may have a little something to do with things like having lived on potato scraps from the garbage cans of the elite when food was nearly impossible to come by in Germany all those years ago. Or with his beginnings here in Canada: a menial job, an utterly foreign language, dinner out of a can placed directly on the heat source.

He graduated to a better job, got married, and took out a loan to build his growing family a home, which he spent his evenings building, and which he paid off entirely in eleven years. He rode his bike to work in southern Alberta hurricane-strength winds and frigid temperatures. (Now, at almost 85, he still rides his bike around town.) He’d known deep, deep hunger, and, determined that none of his children ever would, he planted a garden big enough to feed an entire village. He taught us the joys of simple things: a sun-warmed fresh ripe tomato off the vine for a snack, sweet peas, crisp cucumber, corn-on-the cob.

On holiday Mondays, he and my mother took us all hiking at Waterton National Park, and, on hot summer weekends, on picnic suppers and to go swimming in the local pond to cool down. When I was ten, he bought me a bike, which I adored. In winter, he pulled us to church on a sled. Eventually he bought a Valiant, in which we went camping every summer after that, all seven of us piling in, alongside an orange canvas tent the size of a hotel and everything else we’d need for two weeks. We were sardines in the back seat, wedged in on top of sleeping bags that filled all available foot space, but we loved our time at the lake.

After he’d taught me how to drive that Valiant with its moody clutch, he once forgave me for parking it on a hill without putting it in gear or engaging the parking brake, landing it squarely in the branches of a tree while I was in City Hall taking care of something I now have no memory of.

He taught me to love pickled herring, dark heavy bread (which my mother baked weekly), potatoes drizzled with oil or butter, fresh garden vegetables. Together with my mother, he taught me the value of community and faith, of visiting the sick and the imprisoned. He taught me the value of hard work, of honesty and integrity. (For as far back as I can remember, he’d refuse a glass of wine based on principle: for his insurance rate or something of that nature, he’d said he didn’t drink, so he never did, the only exception being the tiniest sip of communion wine at church.) He taught me the beauty of books, classical music, hymns sung in glorious four-part harmony. He taught me that there is a story beyond our own, and showed me what it looks like for a man to love a woman unfailingly and deeply.

For this, and much more, thank-you Dad; I love you and happy Father’s Day.

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14 thoughts on “Dad

  1. I remember your father as a gracious, intelligent, compassionate man who lived his Faith . While he was a stickler for detail, he also had that important capacity to see the whole picture. He contributed enormously to his faith community, and his life touched and helped many people. Your father was a very pivotal support for my parents in many ways ; and they held him in high regard. There were a couple of times your folks visited mine way back then ( in Edmonton) – and we have a few video shots of your father ,mother and brothers (in their teens) at our home
    Some one said, any guy can have a child . . but, not every guy can be a father.

  2. Obviously I still know so little about you and your family Connie! Still haven’t got a good grip even on who all your siblings are – but your Dad biking around town? Wow, good for him. It is amazing isn’t just how much lives here in Canada and the Western world have changed in a lifetime. I too have memories around a car, a vacation and “sardining”! Lovely reminiscence – let’s get together with your folks sometime and hear some stories!

  3. Dear Connie

    I am once again as always moved to tears of joy and honour of your father and all that he gave to his family. This piece honours all that was in and still continued to be in the fullness of his heart. I honour your father, his father and all the fathers before him for even generations. Thank you deeply for sharing your amazing gift of Narrative. Hugs Robyn

    Sent from Windows Mai

    l

  4. Yes Connie so true what you wrote! Very touching-of course made me cry….but its a good release right! Thank you for sharing once again!

  5. I second all these wonderful responses. Beautiful tribute–from a wonderful daughter–that I hope your dad reads. And you gotta love the Valiant. And that baby carriage…classic!

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